In This Issue:
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
Parashat Terumah begins by listing the Terumah, the gifts that Hashem tells Moshe that Bnei Yisrael can donate to the Mishkan if they so desire. The first eleven items on the list are written without their purposes stated. For example, the first materials listed, "Zahav VaChesef UNchoshet," "gold, silver, and copper" (Shemot 25:3), are written without the Torah saying "used to coat the vessels or altars." Conversely, when the last four items are listed, the Torah states their uses in the Mikdash: "Shemen LaMaor, Besamim LeShemen HaMishchah VeLiKtoret HaSamim Avnei Shoham VeAvnei Milu'im LaEiphod VeLaChoshen," "Oil for illumination, spices for the anointment oil and (a separate mixture of spices for) the aromatic incense, Shoham stones, and stones for the settings, for the Eiphod and the breastplate" (25:6-7). Only then does the Torah formulate the command to build the Mikdash: "VeAsu Li Mikdash VeShachanti BeTocham," "And they shall make a
Mikdash for Me, so that I may dwell among them" (25:8). Why does the Torah list the purposes only of those items at the end of the list? What is so special about these particular items? Additionally, why is it that the Torah describes the uses of these items in the Mikdash even before it commands the building of the Mikdash itself?
Rav Tzvi Dov Kanotopsky, the former Mara DeAtra of the Young Israel of West Hempstead and Eastern Parkway, offers an interesting answer to both questions. He states that the functions of the four items listed symbolize four distinctions that Hashem makes, which we mention in Havdalah. The first distinction is that Hashem is "HaMavdil Bein Kodesh LeChol," "The One who separates between holy and mundane." This is alluded to by the spices for the anointment oil, which was used to sanctify the originally mundane vessels of the Mikdash so that they could be used in holiness. The second distinction mentioned in Havdalah is that Hashem is "HaMavdil Bein Ohr LeChoshech," "The One who separates between light and darkness." This is alluded to by the oil of illumination, which helped light the Ner Tamid, the eternal flame. The third distinction is that Hashem is "HaMavdil Bein Yisrael LaAmim," "The One who separates between Israel and the other
nations." This is alluded to by the stones for the Eiphod and the Choshen, which contained twelve stones on which Moshe was instructed, "VeHaAvanim Tihyena Al Shemot Bnei Yisrael Sheteim Esrei Al Shemotam," "The stones shall be according to the names of the sons of Israel (the Shevatim), twelve according to their names" (28:21). The final distinction that we mention in Havdalah, when Shabbat leads into Yom Tov, is that Hashem is "HaMavdil Bein Kodesh LeKodesh," "The One who separates between holy and holy." This is alluded to by the spices used for the Ketoret, which was the only holy item that was allowed to be brought into the Kodesh HaKodashim on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. It is because of the four separations represented by these items that their uses are specifically stated, unlike the previous eleven items.
understanding the symbolism behind these four items, says Rav Kanotopsky, one can answer why these items' functions are listed before the commandment of building the Mikdash itself. In order to build a Mikdash, one must first understand the meaning of the word "Kadosh," "holy." Holiness is the recognition of something as being set aside, or separated, from other things. For example, a Korban is holy because it is set aside to be offered to Hashem. Before building the Mikdash, the Torah lists four items that are used to separate, telling us that we must recognize that certain people, places, and objects are meant to be set aside from others. In order for the Mikdash to function properly, there must be a recognition that some parts of it, such as the Kodesh HaKodashim, are forbidden to enter. In addition, there must be a realization that certain people, such as Kohanim and Leviim, have different roles in the Mikdash. Additionally, it is
required that people in the Mikdash respect the vessels by abiding by the rules of what they can touch at what times. Only when there is an understanding of what or who is meant to be set aside can there be a commandment to build the Mikdash.
Although nowadays we do not have a Mikdash or materials to dedicate to it, the message of its construction still is relevant. It was a necessity then to recognize the distinct roles of different places and people in the service of Hashem; the same is true today. Our service of Hashem is not a standard fixed for everyone; rather, it is our role to recognize our own distinct strengths and to use them to perform the will of Hashem.
When discussing protective laws, the Torah states, "VeGeir Lo Toneh VeLo Tilchatzenu Ki Geirim Heyitem BeEretz Mitzrayim," "You shall not abuse a stranger and you shall not oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Shemot 22:20). Rashi states that if a Jew bothers a Geir, or convert, the Geir can respond by noting that Jews also descended from strangers, for their ancestors were strangers in Egypt; therefore, they should not accuse the converts about a fault which they have, too. Rashi concludes by defining "Geir" as a person who had not been born in the land where he dwelled. What compelled Rashi to define "Geir," a common word used throughout the Torah?
One can answer by noticing the difference between two types of Geirim. Residing in Israel and committed to observing the Seven Noahide Laws, a Geir Toshav is a gentile, whereas a Geir Tzedek is a full-fledged Jew. Rashi was thus compelled to define "Geir," as the word has two different meanings and could create confusion. Obviously, we were not converted Jews, or Geirei Tzedek, in Egypt, but were strangers in a strange land, so the Pasuk must deal with a Geir Toshav. If, however, the Jews were strangers but not converts, why are we are commanded elsewhere (see Bava Metzia 58b) not to oppress converted Jews as well? Dr. Avigdor Bonchek answers by quoting the Gemara (Bava Metzia 59b), which says that one should not say "hanging" to a person who convicted a relative to death by hanging, as the word scares him and we must be sensitive to his feelings. Likewise, the Torah is telling us to be sensitive to a Geir, because as long as our Geirut
status is similar to his, we are also vulnerable to taunts; thus, Jews, of all people, must be sensitive to a convert's vulnerable position.
In describing the way that one must build the Aron Kodesh for the Mishkan, the Torah commands, "VeAsu Aron Atzei Shittim" (Shemot 25:10), decreeing that the Aron Kodesh be built out of wood. However, the Torah further specifies "ViTzipita Oto Zahav Tahor MiBayit UMiChutz Titzapenu" (25:11), mandating that the Aron Kodesh be covered on both the inside and outside with gold. This seemingly odd commandment provokes a simple question: why was it so essential that the Aron be completely covered with gold?
The Gemara (Yoma 72b) explains that the Torah is teaching us that a Talmid Chacham must be "Tocho KiVaro," meaning that one cannot outwardly pretend to be very religious while truly feel no connection to Hashem. The ideal Jew should serve Hashem with heartfelt sincerity both outwardly and inwardly. If, however, the Aron Kodesh is meant to represent the ideal, uniformly sincere Jew, it is very strange that we find that while the Aron Kodesh was to be completely covered with gold, its base was indeed wood. Would it not have been better for the Aron to be comprised solely of gold, completely devoid of wood, a material which represents physicality?
Perhaps one can understand the Aron Kodesh as telling us that in this world one cannot be completely gold. While it is certainly true that one must surround oneself with Torah, one must also retain a little bit of this world within himself. One must participate in the material world; Jews do not endorse the concept of completely separating oneself from society and not partaking of the world at all.
Conversely, the Chizkuni, in his explanation of why the Aron Kodesh required a base of wood and a covering of gold, explains that ideally, the Aron should in fact have been made from all gold, but it had to contain some wood as well due to the difficulty of transporting such a large structure made completely out of gold. It is apparent from the Chizkuni that the Aron Kodesh, which represents the ideal Jew, really should have been all gold implying that the "ideal" Jew, like the "ideal" Aron, should in fact be completely "gold" and have no relationship with the outside world.
In order to reconcile these two explanations, one may suggest that there are two ways of living in this world. Firstly, one can live in the "real" way, in which unfortunate circumstances do not permit man to achieve perfection or live in a world of perfection. Additionally, there is the "ideal" way to live. This is the way of life that Klal Yisrael hopes to one day live, but a way of life that cannot currently be achieved. Perhaps one can argue that this is the difference between Chazal's explanation and the explanation of the Chizkuni. Chazal are explaining that the practical way of life nowadays is to participate in this world. There is no option to ignore this world and pretend that it does not exist; the only way to live in the world we currently live in is to have "wood" within ourselves, not to be only gold, and to interact with the world. Conversely, the Chizkuni is teaching us the ideal way of life and telling us that while Chazal are
correct that practically one cannot live his life in isolation away from all physicality, the ideal is indeed to lead such a life.
This idea can also be related to the famous essay entitled The Lonely Man of Faith written by Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik to explain the difference between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of Sefer Bereishit. The two chapters seem to have contradictory accounts of the story of the creation of the world. Based on Rav Soloveitchik's approach, we can explain that Chapter 1 depicts "Adam I," a person who must participate in the world according to the Pasuk "ViChivshuhah" (Bereishit 1:28), meaning that man must "conquer" the world. Conversely, Chapter 2 depicts "Adam II," a man who lives in the ideal world (Gan Eden), in which there is no worry of the physical world and man can live a completely spiritual life.
Like the "ideal," hypothetical Aron, Adam II also represents an ideal human being and a life that is impossible to lead in the contemporary world. Food is not provided to man so easily, and thus we can no longer focus all of our attention on spiritual endeavors. In fact, Adam's punishment was "BeZeiat Apecha Tochal Lechem," "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread" (Bereishit 3:19). He would specifically have to work hard for his food, thereby becoming an Adam I. Despite the flawed world in which we live, we can, nevertheless, look forward to the time of Mashiach, at which point the world will return to an ideal one, according to many Rishonim. May we all live to see the return to the ideal world with the coming of Mashiach.
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